photo of Ebonee AndersonCoping with toxic racism: the past is rooted in the present
Ebonee Anderson, Diversity Recruiter, UWHR Recruitment and Staffing

Reprinted from UWHR’s DEI Blog; originally posted July 21, 2020.

How we choose to frame the perils of racism in the history of this country consequently impacts how we address the issues of racism today. The past is rooted in the present. The tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor was not the first “wake-up” call for America. Nor is seeing Latinx children and families seeking asylum detained in “cages” at ICE Detention Centers, or Asians being the target of xenophobia during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and People of Color have been sounding the alarm of systemic racism for generations only to have the snooze button hit on their realities time and time again.

Racism, white supremacy, anti-blackness, and xenophobia culture has been embedded in the socio-economic systems of America for centuries. This is evident in the colonization and attempt to eradicate the indigenous people of the land, to slavery, to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, to segregation and Japanese internment camps. And this is evident in the present day from disparities in health care access and outcomes, to achievement gaps and the criminalization and mass incarceration of Black and brown individuals, to the realities of race and police brutality being symbolized in the dangerously false accusation of Amy Cooper or watching in disbelief as George Floyd grasped for life while crying out “I can’t breathe.” The devastation of recent tragedies have rightfully sparked unrest and protests, but more often than not, this kind of racially forged trauma is not recorded, does not receive media attention, and does not go viral.

Stating race is a social construct and arguing “All Lives Matter” may sound more inclusive, but neither sentiment offers a remedy to the lived experience of the Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and people of color who continue to endure the oppressive systems of white supremacy and racism. Many of the same oppressive systems that upheld slavery in the past are still very present today. The only real remedy is to acknowledge and dismantle the structures of racism and white supremacy that has been embedded in workplace culture and the education, healthcare, political, social, criminal, religious, and economic systems of this country.

Addressing trauma and self-care

Mental health support and resources

In spite of their plight, Black/African-Americans and other communities of color remain resilient and continue to thrive. While resilience is commendable, the effects of multi-generational trauma and systemic oppression can lead to psychological distress and unaddressed mental health issues such as PTSD, Anxiety, or other depressive disorders. Daily exposure to micro-aggressions and micro-inequities, disparate access to resources and opportunities, bias in hiring processes, and isolation in the workplace, make it difficult to cope with the toxic effects of racism. We have a long way to go in the fight for systemic equality, and a healthy mind and body is vital to continue the fight. Below are some tools and resources to help you cope and support your mental health:

UW CareLink Can Help

UW CareLink can provide easy access and connect you to free, short-term counseling. Highly trained clinicians will listen to your concerns and help you or your family members deal with the any trauma or issue you are facing. To get started call toll-free: 866-598-3978 (TDD 800-697-0353), available 24/7. Learn more about UW CareLink.

Through UW CareLink, you can also access articles such as “Understanding the Trauma of Racism” and “Speaking to Children About Diversity and Discrimination.” See “Social change resources” (under “Featured resources”) and follow the instructions for logging in.

Culturally specific mental health resources for BIPOC

Anti-racist and social justice resources

The burden of anti-racism and social justice work should not be on the Black, indigenous, and people of color who experience systemic oppression. Racism hurts all people regardless of race or ethnicity, and fighting for equality is all of our responsibility. It is important to educate ourselves and explore issues related to identity, privilege, implicit racism, white guilt and fragility, internalized oppression, and the toxic presence of white supremacy that is embedded in our everyday lives. There are several tools and resources available online from books to podcasts to YouTube videos and Ted Talks.

Listed below is variety of resources to help get you started:

Resources for leaders

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